Farm produce brokers, a new line of business in the Tibet Autonomous Region, are playing an increasingly important role in boosting the region's rural economy.
They shuttle between remote mountainous areas and wholesale markets selling farm produce for Tibetan farmers and advising them about production.
"We follow the market closely and ask local farmers to grow what the market needs and sell the most profitable products," said Qung Cering, a broker in Xigaze Prefecture.
He encouraged local farmers to grow vegetables in winter in greenhouses built on the highland barley fields. As the region is extremely cold in winter, locals used to buy expensive vegetables imported from other parts of China.
At first, his fellow villagers opposed Qung's idea on the grounds it would compete for ancestral cropland.
But when the vegetables sold well on local markets and the growers reaped handsome profits, many other households followed suit the following year.
China has more than 800 million farmers. Many, especially those living in remote areas, find it difficult to sell their produce due to a lack of information and transport. The 140,000-odd rural associations across China are too few in number to cope with the huge demand. So brokers like Qung Cering are playing a very important role in catering to farmers' needs.
Tibet's first batch of farm produce brokers numbers around 100. They either help farmers sell their crops and animal by-products or offer information and technical advice.
Benba, a research fellow at the Tibet Regional Academy of Social Sciences, said, "The emergence of Tibetan farm produce brokers shows local farmers have cultivated a market-oriented awareness".
(Xinhua News Agency December 4, 2002)